Automobiles use language protocols for communications between vehicle sensors and computers. Currently, the federally mandated protocol is “CAN,” for “controller area network.” It was originally developed by Bosch and became required for all United States vehicles with the 2008 model year.
 
But BMW is no experimenting with using the internet protocol for some vehicle communications purposes, including systems which are “safety critical.”
 
The most essential attribute to automotive networks is speed. As the number and nature of computerized automotive systems multiplied, the ability to communicate information quickly became paramount in order to be able to process the amount of information being communicated and act on it quickly. 
 
It is this requirement which has led BMW to begin experimenting with the internet protocol: speed. Networks based on the internet protocol are able to handle real-time communications needs with capacity to spare. 
 
But a second advantage may be cost. It is anticipated that using the internet protocol for some functions would reduce the complexity of automotive networks and, thereby, their cost. 
 
The research is being conducted at BMW Research and Technology, located in Bavaria. Both the current internet protocol, IP4, and the future IPc6 protocol have been tested, and the group has tested the protocols in both engine-management, stability control, and instrument panel applications. To date, however, the experiments have not progressed to an actual driveable car.

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